An Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention Credit Worksheet 2021 (updated March 2024)

Small businesses were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To facilitate the impact of the pandemic on small businesses, the Employee Retention Credit, also known as the ERC, has been introduced. 

Once you know you are eligible for the ERC, the next question is: how to calculate the Employee Retention Credit? The simple answer to this question is the Employee Retention Credit Worksheet 2021.

ERC Worksheet 2021 was created by the IRS to assist companies in calculating the tax credits for which they are qualified. The worksheet is not required by the IRS to be attached to Form 941. It’s just a calculator to help you calculate your ERC while filling out Form 941 for 2021.

Key ERC Credit Takeaways You Will Learn:

  • ERC Calculation: Discover how Employee Retention Credit is calculated for 2021.
  • ERC Worksheet: Learn about the worksheet for Employee Retention Credit and how to accomplish it.
  • Qualification Rules: Understand the rules for Employee Retention Tax Credit qualification in 2021.
  • Example Scenario: Gain insights from an example scenario showcasing eligibility, qualified wages, and credit amount.
  • Tax Return Effects: Recognize how the Employee Retention Credit can impact your tax returns.

See Important 2024 Employee Retention Tax Credit Deadline Information at the Bottom of This Article.

How is Employee Retention Credit 2021 Calculated?

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) was designed by the federal government to help small businesses cope with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers who qualify for the ERC can get tax credits in return for paying appropriate salaries and health plan fees to their employees.

But how much can you anticipate claiming qualified wages if you’ve determined that you’re eligible for ERC? Fortunately, we have this simple ERC Calculator to assist you in determining the credit amount you can expect.

ERC Calculation Worksheet 2021:

Let’s begin with the year 2020 of business solutions providers as well as business solutions companies. Qualified salaries and expenditures for 2020 are capped at $10,000 per employee for the year, with a credit of up to 50% of that amount, allowing you to claim up to $5,000 in credits per employee. 

  • Make your way to the Calculator.
  • Use this calculator to figure out how much federal income tax your employer should deduct from your paycheck. This is what is known as tax withholding. View the impact of your withholding on your refund, take-home pay, and tax liability.

Check out 5 Ways to Calculate the Employee Retention Credit.

How Does It Work?

This tool may be used to:

  • Calculate the amount of federal income tax you’ll be withholding.
  • See how the amount withheld affects your refund, take-home pay, or tax liability.
  • Choose an amount for projected withholding that works for you.

The information you submit determines the accuracy of the results.

What Do You Require?

Prepare the following:

  • Pay Stubs from every position (spouse too)
  • Other sources of income (side jobs, self-employment, investments, etc.)
  • Last year’s tax return

After determining eligibility, go to the ERC Credit Calculation section and begin inputting qualifying salaries and health-plan expenditures. Wages paid that qualify for ERC are subject to the following restrictions:

a) Earnings paid with PPP or EIDL are not considered qualifying wages for business tax filers.

b) Wages paid to employees who are connected to the majority owner as well as governmental authority are not considered qualified wages and advance payment as well as advance credits.

c) Qualified ERC earnings cannot include wages for purpose and economic hardship that have previously been claimed for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), COVID-19 Eligible businesses, or any other tax credit.

Is There a Worksheet for the Employee Retention Credit?

Worksheet 1 should be familiar to every employer who submits the Quarterly Employment Tax Form with the IRS. Worksheet 1 should be used for qualifying earnings for claiming credits under the CARES Act and the Employee Retention Credit in the second quarter of 2020 and beyond. Worksheet 1 will help you calculate the COVID-19 tax credit as follows:

  • Credit for sick time
  • Credit for family leave

You may discover which refundable payroll tax credit is or is nonrefundable by filling out this worksheet.

  • Calculate the non-refundable amounts of sick and family leave credit for the time taken before April 1, 2021.
  • For computing the employee retention credit, step 3 of Worksheet 1 has been separated into Worksheet 2.

How Do You Accomplish Worksheet 1?

Form 941 worksheet 1 is divided into three sections. You should understand how you paid your staff during the reporting quarter before starting Worksheet 1. To establish the refundable and non-refundable components of these tax credits, fill out the appropriate worksheet sections.

Worksheet 1 was created by the IRS to assist employers in calculating the tax credits to which they are entitled. Worksheet 1 is not required by the IRS to be attached to Form 941. It’s just a calculator to help you with your 2021 Form 941 computations.

Employee Retention Credit Worksheet 2021

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies in the United States have had to make various changes to Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. If you’re an employer planning to apply for COVID-19 tax credits, you should be familiar with Form 941 Worksheets and when to use them.

Worksheet 4 was introduced to the Form 941 instructions last quarter, but it was not required for the second quarter of 2021 since it is only required for the third and fourth quarters of 2021 to compute the Employee Retention Credit. Worksheet 4 will take the place of Worksheet 2 and will compute all qualifying salaries earned after June 30, 2021.

Worksheet 4 will be unfamiliar to employers submitting Form 941 for the third quarter. Employers will compute the ERC using Worksheet 4 for the forthcoming third-quarter reporting; it applies to any eligible wages earned after June 30, 2021.

Learn more about How To Apply For Employee Retention Credit.

Here’s a quick rundown of Worksheet 4 and how to use it effectively.

  • Whether or not you claim credit for eligible sick and family leave earnings will influence how you fill out line 1a and the rest of the worksheet’s first step. You have two possibilities for finishing this line:
  • If you’re claiming credit for eligible sick and family leave this quarter, skip to step 2 and enter the value from Worksheet 3, step 1, line 1f.
  • Before moving on to step 2, complete each line of step 1 (1b-1g) if you are not claiming credit for qualifying sick and family leave earnings.

After determining the employer portion of Medicare tax, go to step 2 of the worksheet to compute the employee retention credit. It is crucial that you know which tax year and quarter you are submitting since this will determine which form you will need to submit.

Worksheet for Employee Retention Credit in 2021

Form 941 has undergone several revisions as a result of COVID-19. The CARES Act’s tax reduction for companies is primarily responsible for this. This allows you to claim the employee retention credit, as well as tax credits for sick and family, leave earnings.

Worksheet 1 was intended to make it easier for employers to compute their refundable and non-refundable tax credits. The first portion of 941 worksheets 1 deals with the reduction in the employer’s contribution of social security tax for the quarter. The form’s second component covers credits for sick and family leave wages, while the third section assists companies in calculating the employee retention credit.

If the credit exceeds the employer’s entire Social Security or Medicare liability in any calendar quarter, the excess is reimbursed to the employer, whether before or after June 30, 2021. The amounts of these credits will be reconciled on the company’s Form 941 at the end of the quarter.

Employers who requested and received a sophisticated ERTC payment for qualified wages earned in the fourth quarter of 2021 must repay the advance by the due date for the relevant work tax return for the fourth quarter of 2021. If payments are not paid according to these certain restrictions, fines may be incurred.

PEO clients who had their work tax contributions reduced or received advance payments by submitting Form 7200 must repay these funds through their PEO accounts.

ERC had more possibilities in 2021. Unlike in 2020, when ERC is determined as a whole for the year, in 2021, ERC is calculated independently for each quarter. Qualified salaries and costs are capped at $10,000 each quarter in 2021, with a credit of up to 70% of those wages/expenses available.

Check out this Comprehensive Guide on Employee Retention Tax Credit Updates.

This video will show you an ultimate guide to the employee retention credit worksheet 2021.

Do I Qualify for the Employee Retention Credit in 2021?

This is when things become complicated. The regulations are intricate. They are different in 2020 and 2021.

In 2019, how many full-time employees did you have on average?

Whether you saw a decline in gross receipts from the previous quarter to the same quarter in 2019: The amount of gross revenues reduction required to qualify for the credit changes depending on which year the credit is being calculated for.

Whether you were completely or partially turned off during that time because the requirements are complicated. Read full erc credit for restaurants details here.

Rules for Employee Retention Tax Credit Qualification:

To be eligible for 2021, you must have one of the following:

  • Experiencing a 20% drop in gross revenues (i.e., gross receipts were less than 80% of prior) in the calendar quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter in 2019.
  • During any calendar quarter of 2020, your business was entirely or partially suspended by government orders.

Is Employee Retention Credit Extended Through 2021?

ERTC has been extended to encompass the third and fourth quarters of 2021, utilizing the same regulations as the previous quarters in 2021, as of March 2021. In addition, the March guideline added several new regulations of social security for Severely Financially Distressed Businesses, Recovery Startup Businesses, and eligible employers.

To add to the confusion, Congress’s Infrastructure Bill of November 2021 eliminated the ERTC credit for all except Recovery Startup Businesses in Q4 2021.

No fines or late fees will be applied if the underpayment is corrected by the end of the year for firms that had already begun decreasing their payroll taxes withheld in the hopes of qualifying for this credit.

You’ll need to file a revised 941 with your payroll firm to claim the ERTC retroactively for 2020.

You have two choices for 2021:

  • Claim the credit when you file Form 941 each quarter OR
  • Fill out Form 7200, which allows you to collect the money ahead of time by calculating your eligibility. This may be a useful alternative for firms in need of cash flow to assist support payroll.

Employee Retention Credit ERC Example

Because of three major improvements in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, millions of small-business entrepreneurs are now eligible for the employee retention credit (ERC):

The ERC and the Paycheck Protection Program loans were available, although not on the same salary.

This new rule took effect in 2020. For 2021, the new law includes an upgraded ERC. The previously strengthened 2021 ERC was prolonged for another six months, to December 31, 2021, by the latest law, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The ERC is a significant event. It has the potential to put tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket to assist cover the expense of paying personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you run your company as a corporation and earn a W-2 for the work you conduct, your W-2 wages are eligible for the ERC.

The only drawback to this tax credit is that determining your eligibility and calculating your tax credit might be complicated. You assess your eligibility, compute your credit amount, and submit your claim for payment.


In the year 2021, you run your dental office as a company. You own the entire company. You paid the following salary to your employees in the first quarter of 2021:

  • You: $30,000
  • 1st employee: $10,000
  • Employee 2 is paid $12,000.
  • Employee 3 is paid $15,000 per month.

Your three workers are not related to you. In addition, you pay $500 per month on behalf of each employee for group health insurance. This perk is tax-free for the employees.

For the entire first quarter of 2021, your state has COVID-19 business limitations in effect. However, because your dental practice is a necessary business, it was not harmed by the governmental orders.

Over the last three years, you’ve had the equivalent total revenues in the first quarter:

  • 2019: $250,000
  • 2020: $240,000
  • 2021: $195,000


To begin, establish if your first quarter qualifies for the employee retention credit by fulfilling any of the following criteria.

  • Your business was fully or partially suspended due to government orders
  • The decline in gross receipts

Despite government orders, your company continues to operate despite suspended operations.

In order to determine if there was a significant decline in gross receipts from 2019 to 2021, you compare your 2019 gross receipts to your 2021 gross receipts. If your gross receipts in 2021 are less than 80% of your gross receipts in 2019, you are eligible for the program.

Learn more about 5 Ways to Determine Eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit.

Qualified Wages:

An eligible business can credit up to $10,000 in qualifying salaries per employee for each quarter in 2021.

Employers with less than 500 full-time employees in 2019 can use the decline in gross receipts to claim all qualified wages paid to all employees during the 2021 quarter.

An important thing to note here is that while the earnings of business owners and their spouses are normally eligible for the credit, the wages of most relatives of more than 50% of owners are not.

Check out What Wages Qualify For The Employee Retention Credit.

Amount of Credit:

The credit rate for the quarters of 2021 is 70%. For the first quarter of 2021, your ERC is $28,000, or 70% of $40,000.

Because your company had 500 or fewer full-time workers in 2019, you must pick one of the following choices to claim the credit for the 2021 quarters:

  • Deduct the amount of your expected credit from your payroll tax contributions.
  • Request an advance refund using Form 7200 if your expected credit is more than your payroll tax contributions.

Effects of Tax Returns

ERC.15 earnings cannot be deducted as taxable earnings. The credit resulted in an increase of $28,000 in your net business income in 2021.

This is not a financial concern. You get the tax credit, which is a dollar-for-dollar decrease in your payroll, but you don’t get the tax deduction for the tax credit money you keep.

Employee Retention Credit ERC 2021 Qualifications

The CARES Act’s Employee Retention Credit encouraged employers to retain their staff on the job. There are two methods to qualify, although the requirements shift from 2020 to 2021.

In 2020, you can qualify by demonstrating that your sales decreased by more than 50% in any calendar quarter as compared to the same quarter in 2019.

Alternatively, you may have been completely or partially shut down as a result of a mandatory order from a federal or local government body rather than for voluntary reasons. If the business qualifies through a reduction in gross receipts, the credit will be given for the full quarter and the next quarter until the drop in gross receipts is less than 20%.

If you qualify through a mandatory closure, you can only use employee pay earned during the shutdown, which is computed by the number of days rather than the quarter. You may be eligible for the Employee Retention Credit in 2021 if you can demonstrate a 20% decline in revenue in any calendar quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019.

The alternate qualifying approach is the same as in 2020, and it is based on whether you were shut down completely or partially due to a mandatory order from a federal, state, or municipal government body rather than for voluntary reasons.

Exclusions from revenue – Please keep in mind that any CARES Act funds received by your firm will not be included in your gross receipts. This covers PPP Loans, EIDL Loans, Employee per quarter, subsidies for defunct venues, and other debt forgiveness initiatives under the CARES Act.

Recovery Startup Business ERC Eligibility Requirements

A recovery startup business eligible for refundable tax credit is defined as a business that began business operations on or after February 15, 2020, wherein their annual gross receipts do not exceed $1 million and have at least one W-2 employee. Recovery startup businesses can gain a maximum credit of $50,000 and/or $7,000 per employee, per quarter.

Conclusion and Summary on an Ultimate Guide to ERC Worksheet 2021

In Conclusion, the ERC Worksheet 2021 is a calculator tool for calculating the credit amount under the Employee Retention Credit. The calculator can be easily used by eligible small and medium-sized businesses, for calculating the ERC effectively and efficiently.

ERC PDF Download of This News Article

Download a PDF version of An Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention Credit Worksheet 2021

Help in Claiming the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC / ERTC): Receive Up to $26,000 Per Employee for Your Business

Disaster Loan Advisors can assist your business with the complex and confusing Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) program. 

Depending on eligibility, business owners and companies can receive up to $26,000 per employee based on the number of W2 employees you had on the payroll in 2020 and 2021. 

The ERC / ERTC Program is a valuable tax credit you can claim. This is money you have already paid to the IRS in payroll taxes for your W2 employees.

Schedule Your Free Employee Retention Credit Consultation to see what amount of employee retention tax credit your company qualifies for.

ERC Deadline Urgency in 2024

April 15, 2024 Deadline for the 2020 ERC Tax Year

The deadline is coming up for the final opportunity to retroactively claim your business Employee Retention Credit for the past 2020 tax year. With the April 15, 2024 deadline fast approaching, we urge you; don’t let this final chance pass!

While not all businesses will qualify, as it depends on multiple factors per IRS Rules and Guidelines, you might be leaving significant financial relief on the table from prior COVID impact to your business during the past 2020 and 2021 business operation years.

Last year, in September 2023, the IRS temporarily paused processing ERC Claims for the remainder of last year. We at Disaster Loan Advisors (DLA) predicted this over one year ago when we made this ERC video warning business owners. See the ten-minute mark of the video for details. 


Even though the IRS has temporarily paused processing, you will still want to check eligibility and file now (if you qualify) because once the IRS will resume processing, ERC tax credit claims are processed in the order they are received.

If you haven’t previously filed for the ERC Credit, it is worth scheduling a phone call to at least explore your possible eligibility from both the past 2020 and 2021 business tax years. Contact us today for a deep-dive analysis to determine if your business qualifies one or more quarters from the 2020 and / or 2021 tax years.

Cover Image Credit: / Chagin / Disaster Loan Advisors.

Mark Monroe